Abbeville woman shook John F. Kennedy’s hand twice with same white glove
Very few people in Louisiana can say they shook the hand of then President John F. Kennedy. But for one Abbeville native, she can boast she shook the hand of the president twice in the same night.
When Genie Gremillion Summers was 17 years old, she had the privilege of attending a Mardi Gras Carnival ball at the White House a month after Kennedy was inaugurated as president in 1961.
Genie, then a student at Mt. Carmel High School, was invited to attend the carnival because of her father’s political connection with then U.S. Representative Ashton Thompton from Ville Platte.
Cecil Gremillion, the owner of Gremillion’s Furniture Store in Abbeville, loved local and state politics and became friends with many politicians. Beverly, a local beauty queen, and her family went to Washington D.C. for Mardi Gras.
Genie remembers meeting the president like it was yesterday. She was with a group of Louisiana queens waiting in the Oval Office for the President to walk into the room. The queens crowded around a certain door thinking President Kennedy would walk through it.
Genie, on the other hand, decided to take a couple of steps back and go to the end of the line and patiently wait while standing next to another a door.
“I remember a lot of girls were shoving their way to the front and I remember waiting till last,” said Genie. “I was in the back. Instead of him going through that door (where the girls were) he came through another door. I was the first one to meet him.”
Lydia Abshire was Genie’s chaperon and never noticed Genie first shaking hands with President Kennedy when he walked into the room.
“He shook my hand and I introduced myself to him and told him who I was,” said Genie. “I said, ‘President Kennedy, I am Ms Genie Marie Gremillion from Abbeville, Louisiana. I am so pleased to meet you.”
President Kennedy shook her hand and then walked around the room meeting all of the other queens. After meeting everyone, he was about to walk out of the room, and Genie’s chaperon walked up to the President, not thinking he met Genie, pushed the Mt. Carmel teenager towards to the president and told him he should meet, “this young lady.”
“He said, “Oh, I have already met this beautiful young lady.’ “That made me very happy,” Genie said. As President Kennedy told her chaperon that, he shook Genie’s hand again.
At the time, Genie was wearing a pair of white gloves . Today, 50 years later, she has saved the same glove she shook President’s Kennedy’s hand with. Her mother Beverly saved it in a photo album.
“I got to shake his hand twice. I never washed the glove,” she said. “I did not want to wash off what is now known as DNA.”